Here’s an obvious question I often ask myself: if – as conventional wisdom has it – people vote based on their ‘back pocket’, ie on economic grounds, and the economic models of the right are demonstrably flawed and morally bankrupt, why are left-wing political parties the developed world over struggling to remain relevant?
November 30, 2011
I like this speech by David Shearer, given to the TEC conference yesterday:
A couple of experiences in my life taught me how important these issues are.
It began a few years ago when I was something of a hippy, travelling around the world like many Kiwis take the time to do.
A friend and I decided to follow the Nile River to its source in Uganda. I think we had this romantic notion of following in the footsteps of those great explorers.
I remember we were reading a couple of wonderful books by Alan Moorehead, who wrote about those who had passed through these same places 100 years earlier. They were called called ‘White Nile’ and the ‘Blue Nile’.
In South Sudan we hitched a ride on a Somali truck that seemed the only way to cross the wild terrain of the Turkana tribe. It was about a five day trip.
We were sitting in the back of the truck peeling a mango and throwing the skins over the side.
I heard noises below and looking down I saw children fighting over the skins – simply because they were hungry. It was a real shock. Here I was, a tourist, travelling through a land where people were so hungry they fought over mango skins.
Over the next few days we saw many people sitting or walking – who knows where – who were just skin and bones, their lives devastated by a drought and conflict in the area, many were close to dying.
For me it was one of those turning points – it hit me that perhaps I should be doing something more to make a difference in the world.
God, I haven’t thought about those Moorehead books for years. I also read them while bumming around North Africa – although I was never ambitious enough to try for Uganda. I was more of a Dahab, Siwa, Chechaouen kind of tourist. Like Shearer, my experience in the region had a profound impact on me, and like Shearer I resolved to change my life and make a difference in the world, but unlike him I went back to London to work in the financial sector instead. So we’re both heroes, in our own ways.
Anyway, I also endorse the General Gordon section of Eminent Victorians.
November 29, 2011
Oh this is SO sweet:
ACT’s lone MP John Banks says he is in favour of talks with Conservative Party leader Colin Craig – as speculation mounts behind the scenes about a merger.
The fledgling Conservative Party managed to score a 2.8 per cent share of the party vote on Saturday, despite only forming in July.
After an hour-long meeting with Mr Key yesterday, Mr Banks said: “Given our result on Saturday, we need to talk to as many people as we can about our future, because I want to make sure we are alive and well in 2014.
“Colin Craig is a class New Zealander. His youthful enthusiasm is what the ACT Party needs going forward.”
ACT on Campus and all those other classical liberals and sundry intellectual supermen who worked hard during the campaign must be so proud of their new leader.
However, Mr Craig was less enthusiastic about a relationship with ACT.
Craig sounds pretty smart for a looting, mooching parasite.
The new Labour leader will have a tougher time than Goff. He (or she) is not just an adversary for Key, they’re going to be competing against Russel Norman and Winston Peters for the role of opposition leader. And maybe I’m wrong, but I have doubts about the ability of either David Parker or David Shearer to win that contest.
And I find it amazing that they’re making the change so quickly. This is a big decision, and this is party with a recent history of awful decision making. Don’t you want to take this one slowly? Do some research? Figure out why you lost, and then pick a leader that can directly address those problems? Wouldn’t it be smart to make sure that this new leader has broader appeal than a bunch of their friends inside the caucus, who – as they’ve just discovered – aren’t really in touch with their own party members, let alone the wider electorate?
November 28, 2011
Labour are changing their leadership. I suggested yesterday on Twitter that this should be something different from the usual back-room wheeling and dealing: that they should hold primaries, with debates between the candidates. One of Goff’s big problems was that not even Labour supporters wanted him running their party – this would avoid that problem and generate publicity for the candidates. It’s an idea that’s anathema to the Philosopher-Kings running Labour though – the party is there to give them money and perform menial tasks like leafleting. Why should they care what the members ‘think’?
Anyway, my brief thoughts on the aspirants:
Andrew Little: If he’d won New Plymouth he’d have been the first Labour MP since the palaeolithic era to win back a provincial seat from the Nats, and would have been the only logical choice for the leadership. But he fought a feeble campaign and lost to a weak candidate by a large margin. Now he’s come in on a list that he helped draw up, and which elevated unionists over competent, popular MPs. If Little assumed the leadership now it would look like a union coup.
Shane Jones: As far as I can tell, the sentence ‘Shane Jones should lead the Labour Party because . . .’ has no credible ending to it.
David Shearer: Has an inspirational life-story to match against Key’s. But that’s less important now that Key’s star is already waning. Shearer might turn out to be an amazing leader, but he has yet to display any traditional leadership qualities.
Grant Robertson: Has not met expectations as an opposition MP in terms of holding Ryall to account in the health portfolio. And winning an election means winning Auckland, something a Labour Party MP from Wellington Central might struggle with.
David Parker: I don’t have a detailed critique. I just can’t see him as leader. He is, apparently, competent and intellectual, but Goff was also supposed to be competent and intellectual. And I’m trying to think of a way to say this and not sound shallow but can’t – he physically resembles Goff, and the party really wants to draw a strong distinction between the outgoing leadership and whoever takes over.
David Cunliffe: Is certainly arrogant, cunning and vicious enough to be leader. Is also very, very smart – Key is unlikely to ever leave Cunliffe fumbling about getting his numbers right in the midst of a live debate. And apparently his fellow party members despise him, which greatly endears him to me and suggests he may be popular with ‘real New Zealanders’. You never really know how someone will perform as leader until you put them in charge of the party, but Cunliffe has been publicly auditioning for the role for at least six months, so he’s less of an unknown than any of the others.
Morgan suggests Annette King and Phil Goff should retire and speed up the regeneration of their party by encouraging new talent to stand as Labour candidates in their by-elections. And they should. But if you look at the party votes for Rongotai and Mt Roskill you can see why they might be reluctant. Although Goff and King both won the electorate votes by large margins, they both came awfully close to losing the party vote to National. In Rongotai the margin is only ~160 votes. It might even go blue on the specials. If either of Labour’s leaders retire in place of a new, less well-known candidate they risk losing these once safe seats to the National Party.
November 27, 2011
Trevor Mallard blogs on Red Alert and asks for people to comment on Labour’s campaign. I don’t have a comment so much as a question: what the fuck is your social media strategy? What is Red Alert? Is it a way to communicate with the media? With the public? With your base? Or is it a way for your MPs to waste time playing around on the internet, occasionally embarrassing themselves and the party while pretending to do all of those other things?
We would rather be ruined than changed
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.
I don’t think the above quote has much to do with the outcome of the election. It’s just cool.
The polls predicted a comfortable majority for the National Party and New Zealand First under 5%. What happened? I’m guessing it was the extremely poor voter turn-out. I read somewhere it was the worst since the 1880s. This meant that the votes cast were not proportionate to the support in the wider population. New Zealand First voters showed up. Labour voters – and to a lesser degree, National voters – didn’t.
National: Were a first term government with a popular leader, an opposition party in tatters and a public desperate for stability during a time of national crisis. They were coasting to a historic majority win until they actually began campaigning, which they did with such ineptness they bled votes to the Conservative Party and New Zealand First. They have coalition options to build a comfortable majority, but the other senior Ministers in the party must be wondering how their leadership will perform if they ever have a genuine fight on their hands.
Labour: Needs to rebuild its brand, and the best way to do that is with a raft of resignations of its incompetent, despised front-bench, so it can return some of the talent they lost last night. They need to do the same with their senior staffers. There’s a venomous culture of entitlement and unaccountability poisoning this political party.
I assume David Cunliffe will be their next leader. He could work – my reservations are (a) that if he wanted to be leader why didn’t he step up before the election, assume the throne and try to prevent what was obviously going to be a bloodbath and (b) that he was heavily involved in drawing up the party list, an exercise in incumbency protection that has cost them dearly. What does it say that Carmel Sepuloni came within ~300 votes of defeating Paula Bennett, one of the government’s highest profile Ministers, but wasn’t rated highly enough to get back in on the list because it was more important to get Darien Fenton and Rajen Prasad back into Parliament?
There will be a raft of commentators comparing this to National’s rout in 2002. ‘Oh, this is part of a cycle. Politics is like the tides. It’s fate.’ They’re wrong! National lost in 2002 because people hated the policies and values of the party. This time around the public preferred Labour’s policies. They just thought the people running the party were rubbish.
ACT: Ha! Worst possible outcome. The liberal party’s sole representative in Parliament is now John Banks. ACT is gone, but weirdly, horribly, still exists and is part of the government – so the task of building a new free-market far-right party is that much harder. What’s going to happen when National decides to pass some legislation that deeply offends ACT’s last dozen supporters, and Banks – loyal National man that he is – cheerfully votes for it?
Greens: Will, presumably, get another MP in on the special votes. It’ll be interesting to see which of the other parties lose out in this process. You’d have to guess it would be National – if it is then they could be reliant on the Maori Party to pass budgets.
Maori: Sharples and Turia will take their Ministerial salaries, vote for whatever they’re told to, be rewarded with comfortable sinecures when they retire during this term and their party will be wiped out in the next election.
MMP: Looks to be here to stay. So the long-term prospects for the left are pretty good. If the Green Party can maintain a 10% share, and Labour rebuilds and concentrates on winning votes off National and mobilising all those core, base voters who didn’t bother to support them this time around then the left can look forward to a comfortable victory in 2014.
November 26, 2011
Most mainstream media commentators fail to inform their readers that in 1985 Duran Duran formed a spin-off group called Arcadia, who released this single.
November 25, 2011
I love this potential post-election scenario laid out by Audrey Young today, based on the last poll of the election: National gets a bare majority, but there’s an overhand and they need the Maori Party to form a government, while Winston Peters gets back in with 5.2% of the vote.
Anyway, here’s my last-minute summary of the campaign and general thoughts:
Ran a surprisingly inept campaign. That opening mock-town hall address debacle. The ‘Stop/Go’ posters, which were a clumsy reprise of their 2005 posters presenting a binary choice between National and Labour (why even mention Labour?). The whole tea-pot tapes saga – not even Clark and Cullen were arrogant enough to pick a fight with the media during the midst of an election campaign. And whose dumb-ass idea was it to have Key robo-call everyone in the country during dinner-time?
That National might drop below 50% and Peters might get returned to Parliament is testament to Steven Joyce’s hubris. He thought he was a master of the universe moving chess pieces around on a board – but Peters isn’t a pawn. Loathsome though he may be, he is also the most talented politician of his generation, and tens of thousands of National voters still trust him. Giving him media oxygen was a stupid, pointless move.
Still, they’ll be government for three more years – partly because there was simply no credible alternative. I think many voters are still optimistic that Key has a plan, or a vision – that his financial genius will kick in and save us all. But there is no vision – or rather, Key’s vision is simply of a country in which he is Prime Minister. The gradual erosion of public services and transfer of wealth to the already wealthy will continue, because it’s what Key’s supporters and many of his Ministers want, and the Prime Minister will remain indifferent to these trends unless they directly threaten his popularity in a way his media team cannot manage.
Ran a surprisingly strong campaign. But who cares? Even now less than half of the people voting Labour want Goff as their Prime Minister. They’re facing a Massacre of the Innocents – the loss of many of their most gifting and promising new MPs due to public revulsion at the quality of the party leadership.
In terms of opposition politics the Labour Party made all the wrong choices during the last year – supporting illiberal legislation proposed by National but dying (pointlessly) in a ditch over compulsory student unionism (also an illiberal institution).
Labour’s brand is now so distinct from National’s that we forget how nowhere they were for most of the last term. In 2009 their flagship policy was a plan to cap the salaries of public servants. In 2010 it was GST free fruit and vegetables. They stumbled from one debacle to another, and the public saw time-and-time again that Goff’s judgement was poor and that he could not be trusted. But Goff isn’t the real problem. Failure to replace him as leader at the beginning of the year – after the Darren Hughes affair – revealed deeper problems within the Labour caucus. A dearth of talent. A lack of leadership. The pretenders to the throne – David Parker and David Cunliffe – calculated that they were better off keeping their heads down until after the election, even though it’s led them to this point and many of their junior colleagues losing their seats.
Labour’s policies are more popular than National’s with the public (and with me). But I just don’t have any faith in these people to implement these policies effectively. Or, frankly, at all.
What’s left to say? Banks was not the panacea the party expected. The few times I saw him fronting the media he seemed . . . inexperienced. ‘Banksy’ just repeated the same couple of phrases over-and-over again, regardless of context. Paul Goldsmith might not want to win Epsom, but by benefit of not being a babbling imbecile, he may fail in this goal.
Ran a low risk, policy-focused campaign, with their usual daft, media-friendly gimmicks (swimming with sharks) so the gallery could dust off their repertoire of puns. They were the most effective opposition party. I’m giving them my vote this election – the first time I’ve ever voted for the Greens.
New Zealand First:
There is a non-zero chance that Winston will get, like 4.9%, demand a recount, try and take legal action to prevent National from forming a government, ect.
I expect National to win – I don’t think it will be a big deal if they need support from the Maori Party. The asset sales legislation will still get passed, probably with some kind of tiered sales process in which iwi, state funds and KiwiSaver providers get first dibs. That wouldn’t be a bad thing.